ASUS are taking portable gaming to the next level with their new Z13! Let’s find out why it’s different. Last year ASUS introduced the Flow X13, a portable 13” 2-in-1 tablet like device with an 8 core Ryzen processor. This one was special as it had a custom PCIe connector, allowing for external graphics to be connected – the XG Mobile. This year, ASUS are introducing the even lighter Flow Z13 for even more portability, and this supports the XG Mobile eGPU as well with the same custom PCIe port.
The Z13 gives off Microsoft Surface vibes, it’s even got a full CNC-milled metal chassis, so it feels great, but this isn’t the first time ASUS have done a design like this.
You might remember the ASUS Mothership from a few years back which had a similar design, though that one was much larger. The basic concept is the same with the new Z13, which is to keep the heat generating components behind the screen so they can easily pull in air from the back, it’s just at a much smaller scale compared to the Mothership. Most laptops pull air in from the bottom, so running them on a desk restricts cooling, but that’s not the case with the Z13.
The Z13 can also be used in tablet mode as the included per-key RGB keyboard comes off, so a bit different compared to last year’s X13 which flips over, more like a 2-in-1 design.
The keyboard can also be propped up on an angle to improve typing, otherwise when folded up it protects the screen when in your bag. The screen and keyboard connect together super easily with magnets. There’s a kickstand on the back to support the screen, and we can see the air intake vents back there too, with an interesting cut out section revealing some of the internals. No doubt that RGB lighting will help boost FPS in games. Air then gets exhausted out of the top left and right sides, so not out the sides near the keyboard like with most other laptops which can heat up your hand.
The kickstand has this little rubber tab on the side that sticks out so you can easily pull it out when setting the device down, but I really wanted to see the same automatic mechanism on the larger Mothership, where it just pops out by itself once you put it down. I’m guessing it may not have been possible to do that in the smaller size.
While the older X13 is AMD Ryzen based, the new Z13 uses Intel’s 12th gen processors. It’s kind of hard to see, but in this shot provided by ASUS we can see it’s using an Intel i9-12900HK, meaning we get 14 cores and 20 threads of performance in this small device. Of course actual performance will come down to things like power limits and how much thermal headroom is available, but it’s worth considering that if you do connect an XG Mobile to the Z13 then if you’ve got a GPU in this “laptop” then it will be disabled and not active, so basically the entire cooling solution will just be dedicated to the processor.
That’s just the advantage of being able to move your GPU workload externally, and I’m sure there will also be lower tier spec options as well, I think this one has the i7-12700H. The Z13 makes use of liquid metal for cooling and uses a vapor chamber cooler, and combined with the ability to pull in air behind the screen, it’s probably going to be one of the best performing 13 inch options out there.
Granted there isn’t a whole lot of competition at this smaller size. Interestingly the use of Intel 12th gen means that the Z13 has both Thunderbolt 4 support for a traditional eGPU as well as the custom PCIe connector for the XG Mobile, so I can’t wait to test both on the same machine to see the difference. Speaking of the XG Mobile, if you’ve already got one from last year that will work on the newer Z13 too. ASUS will also be launching some new XG Mobile options. The Z13 should be quite capable for its size even without the XG Mobile. It’s available with up to RTX 3050 Ti graphics, but interestingly it’s actually got a MUX switch, so we can disable optimus to help boost gaming performance. Something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any other 13” gaming laptop. You’re definitely going to want to make sure that you’re subscribed for my benchmarks and upcoming full review!
Now up to RTX 3050 Ti graphics and i9 processor in such a small machine definitely isn’t going to come cheap.
However there will also be a cheaper that doesn’t have discrete graphics in the actual “laptop” part of the machine, so it would just essentially be processor only, and this could be a much better option if you do actually plan on using an XG Mobile, because if you don’t actually need the Nvidia graphics when on the go and you’re just docking with the XG Mobile at home, then yeah that’ll make sense. No point spending more money to have a 3050 Ti or some other GPU in here if you’re not going to use it. Of course let’s not forget how portable the XG Mobile still actually is, so even if you did want GPU power on the go it wouldn’t be that hard to bring it with you. The 13.4” touchscreen is 16:10 and available with either 4K 60Hz or 1080p 120Hz options. In addition to there being a camera above the screen, there’s also one on the back too which can record 4K video if you want to use it tablet style.
There’s an easily accessible hatch door that gives you access straight to the PCIe 4 M.2 slot without the need to remove the entire back panel, though due to the smaller size it can only fit 2230 sized SSDs which I think right now max out at 1TB. There’s a MicroSD card slot underneath the rear stand, so it is more awkward to access, but hey better than not having it at all if you’re after more storage.
Unfortunately RAM is soldered to the motherboard, but I mean it’s a tiny 13” device so kind of expected. At least it’s available with up to 32 gigs of LPDDR5-5200 memory. Seriously, other companies need to get it together. I’m looking at you, Razer Blade 14 with your maximum 16 gigs of soldered memory. Sure, 16 gigs may be a nice sweet spot today, but it’s hard to justify spending so much money on a device right now when you have no idea how much you’re going to need years from now.
But I digress, the point is, at least you can get up to 32 gigs here even if it is soldered. Port selection on the left includes two Type-C ports, one is Thunderbolt 4 but both provide DisplayPort 1.4 support, one goes to the iGPU and the other to the dGPU if you have one. One of the Type-C ports is found within the XG Mobile port which has a rubber cover, and the whole device can be fully powered over Type-C with 100 watts using either port.
The right has a 3.5mm audio combo jack and a USB 2.0 Type-A port. The power button is on this side too, along with volume up and down controls. Now I did ask ASUS why they decided to use the older and slower USB 2.0 on that Type-A port and was basically told that it was just a limitation of extending the PCB from this side to that side.
Essentially it came down to it being a case of having a USB 2.0 Type-A port or no Type-A port, so in that case if that’s actually accurate I suppose I would prefer to have 2.0 Type-A port rather than no Type-A port at all.
At least until we get to the point where all devices rely on Type-C, but hey I suppose there are also adapters available. Unfortunately I don’t have pricing or availability details just yet, but given the relatively powerful specs you can get in such a smaller 13” device expect to pay quite a bit. Regardless of whether or not you’re into an eGPU setup, I think it’s great to see ASUS continuing their XG Mobile and making new laptops that support it. A lot of other companies would introduce something like this and then just abandon it and hope you forget about it 12 months later. I’m looking at you “upgradeable” Alienware 51m that didn’t even get RTX 30 series graphics. Now ASUS have also made way more changes to their gaming laptop lineup this year which you can check out in this video over here. Seriously, they added a MUX switch to pretty much every gaming laptop.
You definitely want to check this one out! And of course make sure you’re subscribed to the channel for when I get the Z13 in for benchmarks and review, and if you’re still hanging around this late in the video then you can check out some of the new gaming laptops coming out this year in my CES coverage, I’ll see you in one of those next!.